What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Frustration on the House Selling

We listed our house last March shortly after buying our vacation home in the sunny south.  Our property is waterfront so we had no indication that selling would be an issue.  Well it has been.  We had our property listed privately then put it with a real estate agent we have dealt with before.  When that failed to bring us any offers we took it off the market then a month later relisted but with a different realtor.  The agent seemed all gun ho so we figured the house would have been sold with us moved before Christmas.  Oh my were we ever wrong.  It would appear this realtor likes bringing in the down right pissants that really aren't interested in putting in an offer.  Then we get an email the other day that totally ticked me off to no end!

A couple had come through our house for the second time so that is a good sign, right?  Wrong!  I'm not sure who put her up to this email but it was in very poor taste.  First off the couple was trying to negotiate through email WITHOUT putting in an offer.  They were seriously trying to find out our financial position and how desperate we were to sell.  Then she even mentioned doing a cash back for them while doing about $5,000 worth of repairs on the house with one of those repairs being listed as one we had already done and have the receipts to prove in.  Then as if it couldn't get any worse the gal copped an attitutde.  Of course this all happened two days after extending our contract!

A couple of weeks ago I was quite sick but they wanted to show the house.  I said yes despite feeling like crud.  The real estate agent was over an hour late, made no appologies for being late and yet wasn't in the house longer than 5 minutes.  I'm not kidding!  So last week I injured my leg rather severely so am on crutches.  They wanted to show the house this coming Sunday.  I said no.  I can barely get around as it it, our kids are down and my husband will be at the office at least for Sunday morning.  There is no way I can get the house ready for a showing.  Any normal prospective buyer would understand that so would make arrangements to view the house at a better time.  Honestly you would have thought I had committed a grievous crime by saying no to a showing.  So at the end of the contract we won't be renewing.  She is supposed to be working for us and if she sells at the bottome end there is a $15,000 commission but a lot more if she sells where we want it sold.  The bottom line is it really is her loss.  We are planning on relisting privately at the end of this contract.  We've seriously have had it with real estate agents!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Emergency Certification

I mentioned in yesterday's post that both my husband have First Aid, CPR and WHIMS certification.  In my opinion every household should have at least one qualified member to administer first aid and CPR if necessary.  While these certifications are mandatory in some workplaces, they really aren't in the home and yet 80% of all accidents happen in the home!  It is in the home that emergency first aid kit is often needed.  It is important though to know what to do in an emergency because one of your loved one's lives may be depending on it.  My recommendation is to have formal first aid and CPR training.  This will cost about $80 with a time commitment of 3 to 6 weeks but it is well worth it. 

WHIMS is a specific certification for those working with chemicals in the workplace.  In most cases employers pay for this certification so there is no cost to you.  I still recommend getting this certification even if your employer does not pay for it.  In most cases it will be a day workshop at about $40 or less but will help give a better understanding of the chemicals and their potential danger in the home.

For under $200 you can be fully certified to deal with any emergency and have the first aid kit to be sure your family is in capable hands in the event of an accident.   All of these certifications require recertification at some point.  I think certification is only good for 5 years.  In reality though once you have the skills if you aren't using them for employment purposes you should be fine for any injury or medical emergency that arises at home.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emergency First Aid Kits

We lived in urban settings within a 10 minute drive of a hospital at most.  On the home front for the most part any emergency health care was as close of wrap it in a towel and go to the hospital.  Except we had young kids at home, we had a pool and we did a lot of camping where a hospital was well over a 10 minute drive.  Compounding that both of us were on the road daily in my case a rather long commute.  It was obvious to us that we needed emergency first aid kits for home, both vehicles and the RV then later even more important with the boat.

By far the easiest way to do this is to buy a pre-assembled emergency first aid kit.  These are available in any drug store ranging in price from a few dollars to about $40.  Once purchased supplies need to be replenished as they are used.  First Aid kits really need to be tailored to the use as well.  For example it was very important for us to include Benedryl in our camping first aid kit because there was a high probability of coming into contact with poison oak, poison ivy or poison summac.  At home is the urban setting this was not as much of a concern but when we moved to a rural setting it was once again a concern.  At home we tend to stock extras like grain packs that can be used as both heating and icing packs, ice packs, crutches, tension bandages and extra medications. I will note that medications are not a strong part of any of our emergency kits especially pain medications.   Emergency kits used in the vehicles and boat are well stocked with splints, slings and other ways to immobilize an injury.  On the boat our number one main concern is to make sure any emergency supplies including the emergency first aid kit is waterproof. 

Communication is a very important part of any first aid kit.  It is essential to have some type of signalling device as part of a first aid kit.  This can range from flares to a flashlight to a mirror to flash light from the sun to get attention.  At home we have a land line and cell phones along with close neighbours and easy transportation to emergency facilities if need be.  On the road we have two cell phone, flares, GPS and on our main travel vehicle OnStar.  On the boat we have two cell phones, marine radio, flashlight, flares and manual signalling capability.  We both have CPR, First Aid Certification and WHIMS Certification so that helps which brings me to another discussion for tomorrow.

Garden Gnome

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dealing With Bruises

I had a mishap last Friday night that resulted in third degree bruising.  This means the bruising was extensive enough to inhibit mobility due to the degree of swelling and pain.  We went to a fish fry with friends then when getting into their truck for the return trip the high winds caught the door slamming it into my leg.  The end result was what looked very much like a second knee over my tibia about 3 - inches down from my actual knee.  By the time we got to their house and realizing the damage we started icing immediately.  As the swelling continued and fearing a broken bone I went for x-rays that found no obvious broken bones but a possible hairline fracture hidden by the swelling.  By this time the swelling was horrendous.  I went home to deal with the situation hoping the swelling would go down and there wasn't a hairline fracture.

When it comes to dealing with severe bruising the rule to remember is R I C E R.  That stands for rest, ice, compression, elevation and rehabilitation.

  • rest - It is imperative with this type of injury to rest the injured  part.  Keep it as still as possible with no pressure or using it for 72 hours.  Immobilize the part via splits if necessary to prevent any movement.
  • ice - Icing is necessary to stop the internal bleeding and reduce swelling.  The recommendation is 20 minutes of icing every 2 hours.
  • compression - Compression works initially to help stop the internal bleeding via pressure.  Once the bleeding has been stopped, compression helps to support the injured tissue as it heals.  The best way to apply compression is using a tension bandage to apply compression for the first few days following the injury.  Use a tension bandage after day 4 of the injury during movement to help support the injured area.
  • elevation - The injured body part should be elevated for 72 hours following the injury to reduce internal bleeding. 
  • rehabilitation - After the 72 hour period has lapsed, it is important to start trying slowly to use the injured part.  From experience a torn hamstring will take over 6 weeks to heal to the point of no pain under normal usage.  Start very slow and in many cases it will take a couple of weeks or more to regain full function.  During the rehabilitation period it is important to take things slow, rest and ice if you notice an swelling or pain.  Do not try to work through either as that will cause more damage.  Realize that it is going to take time and the injured part is going to be weak.  If at any time you feel pain or see swelling back off using the injured part.  A TENS unit can be used to help with the healing process if desired but check with physio first.

Garden Gnome

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Few Ways to Increase Income From the Comforts of Your Home

Over the past couple of days I have discussed why the two income family is a myth for moms and some ways to cut back household expenses.  Many households may find that simply cutting expenditures is not enough because they have been overspending too long.  At the same time working outside the home for many moms involves a low paying job with expenses including daycare that in reality gives them a net gain of under $40 per week.  There are a surprising number of ways to make money from the comfort of home that in most cases will give a net weekly income greater than working outside the home.  Some of these activities have the added bonus of creating allowable tax deductible expenses towards the income as well.  Here's a few examples:

  • baby-sitting service - Providing childcare for one child in your home from 8 am to 5 pm can give you an income of $150 to $250 per week.  Many libraries have a lending program for larger toys or they can be bought used quite inexpensively.  You may have to provide breakfast, lunch and snacks but quite often Moms will send snacks with their kids.  The downside to this is providing childcare will not work well if you want extended periods of time away from the home (eg. vacations) or if you are a real stickler for the drop-off and pick-up times.  Sometimes parents run a little early or late so being a bit flexible will keep good relationships.   This job requires a good commitment because calling in sick is not an option.
  • cottage industry - Years ago women worked cottage industry (eg. knitting, sewing, candlemaking, soapmaking, and etc.) to make a bit of extra income.  The immediate downside is the expense of the materials needed to complete the projects.  The second problem is marketing.  However, many are making a rather good income doing just that!  There are a lot of online resources for selling homemade products as well - kijiji, ebay, craigslist, etsy to name a few.
  • selling on online auctions - Making money on online auctions has become the sole source of income for some people.  We joined eBay in late 1998.  By the following spring of we were grossing $400 per month with minimal out of pocket expense.  At most we spent around $50 for a net income of $350.  Selling on eBay and other online auctions takes time and effort but with a bit of effort netting $500 to $1,000 per month or more is quite an achievable goal.
  • other online income - There are many, many ways to make money online.  You can open up an online shop (eg. etsy, cafepress), sign up for programs like microworkers where you are paid to do small online tasks, and there are similar programs that have a good track record of paying.  Microworks should give an income of $15 to $20 or more per week for about 30 minutes worth of work each day.  In general stay away from paid to click and paid to surf programs as many of these are huge scams!  If you are good with html you can make a bit doing webpage design
  • blogging - Blogging can and does allow you to make money and there are several ways to do so.  The first is monetizing your blog using Adsense and various other advertising networks.  Sign up as publisher or advertiser on Adgitize and CMFads.  Become an affiliate for other programs like Payloadz.  On a one to one basis none will pay you a huge amount but combined you can make well over $100 per month with most of that being passive income meaning all you do is display the advertising on your blog.
Clearly working from home can certainly increase your income without all the expenses of working outside of the home.  I haven't even touched base on some of the higher paying jobs like telecommuting, teaching online and freelance writing.  In this day and age it is quite possibile to make a decent income without having to leave your home!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cutting Household Expenses

Yesterday I discussed how working outside the home ends up being a myth for many Moms.  The reason being is and especially true if working for minimum wage your net earnings after all expenses for the week will come in at about $40 if you are very lucky.  The fact is many Canadians are living above their means, struggling to keep all their toys while falling into the myth that a second income is the answer.  They could not be more incorrect!  The reality is a second job may not be cost effective.  The first in household finances should always be finding ways to not spend money.  How do you do that?

First off before giving you a few tips to help you save money lets consider one small expense.  A cup of coffee costs $1.25 or $6.25 per week or $325.00 per year.  Now the $1.25 doesn't sound like much until you put it into the big picture of the annual costs.  On the other hand adding a $5 movie option to your television subscription would cost $60 per year but is considerably less expensive than two movie nights out per year for two people.    That is what you should be doing for each and every expenditure.

There are a lot of ways to save on household expenses.  Here are a few tips to get you going but there are so many more things you can do to effectively save money:

  • cook from scratch - It goes without saying that in most cases cooking from scratch is one of the most cost effective things you can do.  Here a McDonald's happy meal goes for $5 for one person yet with a bit of careful planning a meal for four will come in at about $4 if not less.  Make your own convenience foods for the freezer or pantry shelves.  At best a cake mix will cost 99¢ on sale but can be made at home for under 20¢ so make up several for the pantry for days you don't feel like doing all the measuring.  Similar savings can be had by making your own seasoning blends, meat coatings and
  • grow what you can - This is one of the mantras of frugal living.  Some complain about growing their own but right now food costs are soaring which means soon there isn't going to be a choice.  Grow whatever garden you can then add rabbits and if possible backyard chickens.
  • eliminate fast food - By far one of the worst values for your dollars is fast food.  Currently Taco Bell has a lawsuit filed against them because even the USDA doesn't consider their meat product (36% beef) as beef.  McDonlald's burger buns are about as far away from a bread product as you can get according to some sources.  Fast foods are laden with salt, sugars, fats and preservatives so while that $5 meal may look somewhat tempting it is nutritional junk food. 
  • buy in bulk - We have bulk food stores here but there are other ways of buying in bulk as well.  The rule is only buy in bulk those foods you know you will use EXCEPT herbs/spice/seasonings then buy at the bulk food store but only the amount you need.
  • wear a sweater and turn down the indoor temperature 3ºC - Today is National Wear a Sweater Day in Canada.  The simple action of consistently reducing indoor heating temperatures by at least 2ºC will make a noticeable difference on your heating costs.  Many in Canada despite the cold winter temperatures fail to dress appropriately indoors.  Years ago when I was young, under shirts and long johns were a must in the Canadian winters but folks seem to have forgotten that as they sit dressed in summer garb watching television while turing the thermostat up instead of down.
  • use your affiliations - Alumni associations, memberships and unions can save you a great deal of money and yet in many cases they are overlooked.  We switched our vehicle insurance to one under my alumni association that saved us $1200 per year!  Other memberships can save on the cost of entertainment like theme parks.
  • reduce traveling - Here in Ontario the price of gas continues to soar meaning for those of us living in rural areas, the cost of living continues to rise.  The solution to this is to do less driving.  If one works out of the home and the other is at home have the one working outside of the home do whatever shopping is necessary on the way home rather than make a special trip.  If a special shopping trip is planned then make multiple stops to cover as many things as you need to do while out.
  • telecommunications - In Ontario, telecommunications are horribly priced!  Between telephone, cell phone, television and internet we come in close to $400 per month.  Than's to Dalton McGuinty's HST all of these services raised by 8% last July just in taxes alone.  We have pared down where we could even stripping our phone service down to only caller ID and an inexpensive long distance plan ($30 per month savings).  This still costs us $70 per month so we may do like the kids and eliminate the land line entirely.  So far two of our kids have done this and really like it.  We are on the cheapest satellite internet service possible with the only other available choice of dial-up which with a second phone line works out to be more expensive.  If we ever sell our house we can cut the internet cost by $25 per month so that will be a nice savings for real high speed.  We moved my cell phone to the cheapest plan possible ($25 per month savings) and tightened up my husband's plan saving about $10 per month.  If going to a bare bones budget though, all telecommunications other than a basic phone line can be eliminated.  In a pinch you can use one phone line and dial-up service for online work.  It would be slow and when online the phone line would be busy but it is about the cheapest way to go. 

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Two Income Family Myth of Mom Working Outside the Home

In days of yore women stayed at home to tend the home fires, cook the meals, care for the family garden and livestock,  and look after their children.  Three significant events took place affecting Canada and other parts of the world that took women out of the home and into the workforce.  They were:  World War I (1914 -1919), The Great Depression (1929 - to early 1940's) and World War II (1939 - 1945).  Women left the home to work as a sign of social responsibility as well as to help support their families.  Fast forward to 2011 and women are still working outside of the home mainly due to the cost of living has become so high that two incomes are necessary to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables.  However, the two income family really is a myth.

Consider the family of four with husband gainfully employed.  Unless the wife has some type of formal education the minimum wage in Ontario is $10.25 per hour and $8.90 per hour if working in an establishment that serves liquor.  I'm going to do all the calculation based on a per week basis.  Assuming the higher amount a 40 hour work week works out to $410 per week before taxes at 15% for the first $41,544 earned in 2011 ($61.50 per).  Child care for two children comes in at $200.00.  Mom's too tired to make herself a lunch ($25.00) and usually buys a coffee ($7.25) on the way to work each day.  The cost of gasoline to drive the vehicle to work comes out to $35.00 plus addition miscellaneous vehicle expenses at an average of $15.00 per week which includes parking if charged, insurance, basic maintenance.  Mom is running late so picks up fast food once during the week at an average cost for a family of four $25.00.  At this rate Mom is actually netting a whole $41.25 per week.  Now $41.25 is still extra money but it is not a lot for the effort expended and the true costs of working outside the home haven't even been fully covered.  There's the extra clothing costs and extra grocery costs with increased convenience foods just to name a couple.

The way to get ahead first and foremost is to cut back on your expenses.  I will give a few tips on how to do that in tomorrow's post.  The following post will deal with a few legitimate ways to make money online.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Free Blogspot Templates!

Blogging has become a way of life for me in many respects so it does affect our homelife.    I'm rather fond of the Blogger platform because it is easy to learn and while knowing HTML is quite useful it isn't necessary with Blogger.  Blogs use a template that dictates the look and feel of the blog.  From there the template can be tweaked to get a more customized feel.  Blogger offers a number of templates but sometimes a template that is a bit different is just what is needed.  When I find a site that helps other bloggers I just have to share it!  I discovered BloggerStyles, a site that offers a wide range of free Blogger (Blogspot) templates.   There is something to please everyone.  All you have to do is download one of their templates then apply it to your blog.  Their site is very easy to navigate.  Let me tell you they have some really nice designs so I'm going to be spending a bit of time browsing over there!  You might even see a whole new template on this blog!

Garden Gnome

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Family Health Reference Book

From time to time family members come down with minor ailments that aren't serious enough to see a doctor but are still in need of treatment for symptom relief.  When I was growing up my Mom had a family health reference book that she would turn to when anyone was not feeling well or had suffered a minor injury.  At that time before the days of the internet it was common for most households to have some type of a health reference book.  It was also common practice to rely on home remedies to relieve symptoms.

Do-it-Yourself Health ISBN 0-7835-4939-3
I can't recall the name of my Mom's family health reference book.  I think it came as part of her encyclopedia set, The Book of Knowledge.  As newlyweds we bought the Crollier's Encyclopedia set that came with a family health reference book.  We donated that set when we moved into our third house.  They were getting outdated and with the internet were not as useful.  I bought the Do-it-Yourself Health book to use as my family health reference book.

This book has 1,001 tips to use to make you feel better and stay well.  It includeds natural remedies and herbal cures.  It is not meant to be a substitution to medical care if needed but rather as a practical guide as to how to prevent and relieve symptoms.  The book is quick to advise as to what symptoms require medical treatment too.   As you can see I have a lot of little post-it flags marking tips and advice for dealing with certain minor ailments.  The Do-it-Yourself Health book has become a valuable addition to my extensive book collection.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Removal

Southern Ontario was hit with a rather large snowstorm last night.  We ended up with an additional 30 cm of of snow on top of what we already had with the prediction of an additional 10 cm today.  Our driveway could almost classify as a laneway as it is quite a bit longer than you would find in an urban setting since we are rural.  Knowing the snowstorm was going to hit my husband called a guy who has a plow to plow our driveway during and after the storm.  This morning I looked out to see our new neighbour and another neighbour shoveling their very long driveways.  Now this is no easy task at the best of times given their lengths.  My husband usually takes the easy approach of clearing in front of the garage then using the car to form ruts to the end of the driveway which allows us to easily get in and out without shoveling.  However, we usually end up having our driveway plowed at least once a season just to get things cleaned out nicely.

Snow removal is a concern anywhere there is accumulation of more than a dusting.  One of the main reasons for this is a slip and fall on your sidewalk can result in liability issues.  In urban areas many municipalities even go as far as to say the homeowner is responsible for snow removal on the sidewalk in front of their house even though it is not technically on their property but rather municipal owned.  Other municipalities have sidewalk snow removal as part of the property taxes.  Any sidewalk on private property should removed along with any ice to prevent slip and fall accidents.  It urban areas with door-to-door mail delivery, mail carriers can refuse to deliver the mail if the sidewalks haven't been cleared.  Driveways become another issue.  Unless the snow is deep driving in and out will form a good snow base that will melt away on warm days but this may cause ice spots.  I know of no bylaws that say homeowners must clear their driveways.  This is usually done for the homeowners convenience of parking and getting in/out of the garage.  Under the Highway Traffic Act is is unlawful and a finable offense to shovel or blow snow from your property onto any highway or street in Ontario.  Unfortunately municipal snow plows can and do shovel snow up across driveways as they go by so that needs to be cleaned out.  At any rate snow removal is something many of us have to face in the winter months.

Garden Gnome